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Interview with Dr. Jaime Wilson about “Crab Theory”

By January 18, 2016Education, Health

Jamie Wilson, a psychologist, found this interesting about crab theory. When a bucket has boiling water with a single crab, it can escape easier. but with a group of crabs, it will be Impossible to get out of the bucket. Every crab will pull each other down so that all stay in the bucket. Finally they all died together. It is a metaphor with humans. When someone becomes  successful, other persons will be jealous or disgusted. They will pull that someone down to equal to her or his standards.

Crab Theory in the Deaf Community is a big thing compared to hearing people. In statistics of the world, which country has the highest crime rate? It is the United States that has a higher crime rate than other countries. Some reasons are related to capitalism. Many people have  many ways to earn money. Poor, middle, and upper classes are racing against each other. Once a person gets successful, others will be jealous and want more than the usual. Affected people fight against each other to be successful, so they may do wrong things, becoming criminals. However, the U.S. is first among the economies of the world. Additionally, it is a country of much freedom.

About Dr. Jaime Wilson

Business Website - Wilson Clinical Services

In the perspective of deaf community,  some use American Sign Language (ASL), but hearing people look at it as a monkey language or worse. It leads them to discriminate against  ASL users. For example, an ASL user and a deaf person using oral language applied for the same job. Most likely the hearing company will hire the oral deaf person, because of feeling more comfortable and connecting easily. That means some hearing people fear people who are different than themselves. It is called xenophobia. Hearing people on meeting deaf people using ASL, don’t feel comfortable and avoid them. It leads to the ASL user not feeling they were treated fairly and pulling down other deaf who can talk.

Wilson had a deaf couple who came to his office, they were married but there was an element of crab theory in their relationship. The wife started to get better and improve her life. However, her husband started to worry about his wife getting better. He showed his weakness while his wife became stronger. Husband knew her past weakness, for she had addiction to marijuana, drugs and alcohol in her past. So the husband used them front of her, tempting her to join him. She became addicted again. It was crab theory because he pulled her down from her successes. When people got involved with crab theory, they fear feeling themselves devalued by another’s success. They don’t want to feel lousy, so they want to pull others down.

How can you avoid crab theory action? Depending on the individual’s caring about inside feelings and wanting someone to become successful, one can feel joy and celebrate it. Successful people will help you if you were stuck in the bucket. For example, one of Wilson’s  researchers focused on gangs. Two groups of gangs hate each other. The researcher tried to make them lessen hating each other.  The researcher considered ways how to solve that problem to try working out together.  He set a goal for both gangs: called the Superordinate goal. It  means reaching the goal by the whole group, not by an individual. Each individual has one specific skill.  One person may be good with building, others have many different skills for example: electricity, plumbing, HVAC and so on. They built a house together by both gangs. They had a goal and worked together. At first they felt disgusted to work together, but they tried to work hard to reach the goal. When it was finished, it took a few months. As a result, they don’t hate each other and related well, but their criminal background still didn’t change.

That is one of idea for our community, we set Superordinate goals. Wilson suggested some ideas for superordinate goals in deaf community: one is to go to the Legislature house and encourage them to pass laws for closed caption/subtitling all TV everywhere and to keep them turned on always. Other idea for making new laws: get ASL interpreters in person quickly as required in hospital. The goal is to have a team, one person who is good at writing a bill, others who can do marketing,  make signs for parade/protests, meet with congresspeople, and all work together to reach the same goal. It beats the crab theory. Another idea, related with jobs: have  someone hired with good pay, and demonstrate good role modeling, so that other deaf people applying to the same company will have a better chance. People seeing this can encourage them and mention to the boss that there is a motivated Deaf person who wants this job. The bottom line is to be real happy for someone reaching that goal. If you are jealous or disgusted by that person, in the back of your mind, you want to pull that person down. It is a subconscious  idea. We have to aware of it before it becomes our action and behavior. When we are aware of it, then we don’t do “crab theory.”

How we know before we start to do “crab theory”? It is a bit difficult. we have habits in our action usually. For example, ask yourself how many times did i breath today? It is normal not to know since it is an unaware action. It is same with our behavior and motivation. Sometimes we don’t pay attention. Today there is a big movement in mindfulness therapy. That means you become more aware about yourself, how you feel, and try to avoid bad feelings. When you fear embarrassment but have to give a lecture in front of people, you experience sweating, faster heart-beat, and want to avoid that situation. Mindfulness therapy will encourage you to have the experience and understand your own feelings. You will then feel pleasure and know more about your feelings. You learn the technical skill of recognizing the feeling before your action. When you feel disgust about another person, you notice this before you act and analyze this feeling.  You try to replace the kind of feeling in order to feel joyful for that person. If you can’t feel seriously joyful, you have a hard time to change your behavior. If you are jealous it doesn’t mean you are terrible or bad. In general, when you recognize the bad feeling, you can stop it. If you don’t notice it, it can become a problem.

Behavior of humanity has a spreading effect. A person provides a positive encouragement to a  person who reaches success or happiness, that person will do the same back. It will help each other to get out of the bucket too. If a person feels disgust or jealousy, it is spreads to other people who will avoid that person. It doesn’t work out because of the relationship of positive and negative. Like a magnet, negatives poles push away each other.

Other situations show Crab theory in many different examples. One of them is the internet. People who make vlogs, comment on Facebook, and write opinions related to deaf society on the internet. They insult people, but behind a shield of anonymity hiding safely at home. They do  not get involved or arrested in public, so it can lead to darkness of crab theory. When an isolated person has a chance to make an extreme decision, it can hurt other persons. If you think about it, it is related with Milgram’s  experiments, when a doctor wearing a white coat has power to order people to press a button and shock a person if he answers a question wrong. It applies the same way to a person who use the internet to insult other people as easily and as strongly as an electric shock.

Wilson’s examples show how to solve problems and get less conflict despite the Crab theory.  Superordinate goal means that many people have the same goal and work together.  It isn’t an  individual goal. Second, we should feel real joy for a successful person and find the positive qualities of that person. Tell that person “I like how you did.” in saying positive things. Lastly, we can pay attention to our feelings before we act, not just depend on automatic behavior everyday like a robot.

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